Fed up with noise, fumes, loitering, littering and round-the-clock bus traffic, residents near the Metro bus garage at 14th and Decatur streets NW have demanded once again that Metro remove it from their midst.
The bus barn -- housing maintenance, washing and parking facilities for about 320 city buses, has been a community headache since trolley days. Residents of the surrounding community have sought for years to have the facility closed.
Last week, young residents who recently purchased homes in the quiet tree-lined community, joined with older neighbors to wage a fresh fight to rid themselves of the garage. They questioned Metro representatives and demanded action from elected officials.
According to residents of the community:
Metro's employes use restricted parking spaces on neighborhood streets but often are not given tickets by D.C. Police. Residents say the Metro employes move the cars, wipe off police chalk marks or park at night when restriction are not in effect.
The bus garage attracts loiterers who drink wine and beer, and smoke marijuana.
Metro employes congregate on nearby corners and harass residents, particularly women, with rude comments.
Metro employes and loiterers throw trash on streets and lawns.
The flow of bus traffic to and from the facility begins at 5:30 a.m. The buses wake residents, crack plaster in homes and cause potholes in the streets. b
Buses leaving the washing machines use neighborhood streets to get to the parking lot on the opposite side of the facility. The vehicles drip water which freezes on the roadway in winter and causes hazardous driving conditions.
"I ought not to have to come home at night and be afraid to walk up my block because there are 20 bus drivers on the corner saying, 'Hey, baby.' This is my home," said Doreen E. Thompson, a government attorney who lives in the neighborhood and organized the meeting. Thompson moved to the neighborhod four months ago. "Metro would have a hard time today to try to place another garage in a neighborhood like ours," she said.
"I don't like to bring up race because I'm not a race-conscious person, but I know darn well that that Metro station would not be there if this were a predominately white neighborhood," said Laverne H. King.
Metro official John Brick told the gathering of about 40 persons, "We realize we are a member of the community and we realize some of the things we do will not be compatible with your preferences."
On the conduct of Metro employes in the community, Brick said, "We cannot legislate morality. We cannot guarantee we will never have an operator do something that is distasteful to you." However, he said Metro had already taken steps to rid the facility of vagrants and loiterers.
He said Metro would explore reestablishing a shuttle bus service for Metro employes who park at Carter Barron Amphitheatre to help relieve the parking crunch in the community. The service was canceled some time ago because few employes used it, he said.
William Wilson, 1310 Decatur St. NW, vice president of the Northwest Boundary Civic Association, told Brick he had a report from the city's Department of Environmental Services verifying noise and air pollution levels at the garage which violate District law.
He said the only way to solve the problem was to move the garage. "How are you goin to crank up 200 to 300 buses in the morning and not have that noise?" he asked.
Brick said a new garage to be located in Maryland was under study, "but the future of this one has not been resolved."
"Your company and your predecessor have been saying for 15 to 20 years we are going to close this facility," said Gary L. Bohlke, who moved across the street from the barn one year ago. "We're tried of hearing 'we're looking into it.' We're tried of hearing 'we're planning for it.' We want to hear a closing date."
Bohlke said "13 buses went by my house" between 11:55 p.m. and midnight on a recent evening, leaving the washing machines for the parking lot.
"We can't move the garage until we have another garage in which to move," Brick said.
City Council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-at large) who also chairs the Metro Board, told residents the board had just commissioned a new study of the barn's impact. He said he had been unable to get fellow Metro board member and city tranportation chief Douglas N. Schneider Jr. to agree that the barn should be closed. Organizers of the community meeting said Schneider had been invited to the meeting but neither Schneider nor a representative attended.
City council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) said some of the problems could be alleviated through better enforcement of District laws. "These are all containment solutions until we can find out how we can get this thing out of the community," she said.
"Why doesn't the council sue Metro if they are violating its laws," asked Bohlke, an attorney for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Bohlke said he would urge residents to sue Metro if the council wouldn't.